How to teach academic writing in 160 pages or less…


Here’s another thing that I’ve been reluctant to throw out until now…

Twenty years ago I took over coordinating an academic writing course for speakers of English as a second language at the university where I had just been employed.

The academic writing course they had was OK, but it was kind of hard to teach. And because I didn’t know any better I spent all my time rewriting the entire course so that I could teach it.

And then because I didn’t know any better I created a system to make it easy to mark including avoiding plagiarism without high-tech software.

Then I rolled this out to the half dozen or so other tutors who delivered the programme.

I prepared all the lessons. Standardised the delivery. And wrote the exams. Everyone seemed pretty happy and the students figured out how to write university-style essays.

Eventually, I just compiled everything and put it in a book. That turned out to be around 160 pages.

I think it’s still a pretty good course. Anything topical in the examples are now 20 years out of date, but the teaching ideas and structure still works.

I’d probably do things a bit differently if I got the chance to do this over again. Like a one-page poster, for example.

But I think I’m OK posting it here for free for anyone who wants it. If not, I’ll wait for the cease and desist letters.

I’ve taken the name of my former employer off the front.

Mostly, this is my work. It remained unchanged as the course book for at least 5 or 6 years after I left, at which point I lost track of things.

And while it is my work it does draw on a whole bunch of other stuff that others have done. Some of this is referenced. Some of it is not.

If I’ve missed something, sorry. I’m not going back to fix it. I just want to release it into the wild.

If you’re looking for a basic text on how to teach academic writing there are probably lots of good ones out there now.

If not, feel free to use and adapt this one. With or without citations.





2015 NCALNE (Voc) Options with Pathways Awarua and ALEC

white alec rgb

Pathways Awarua NCALNE (Voc) 2015

Introducing the NCALNE (Voc)

The National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) is a 40 credit level 5 entry level professional development qualification for trades, vocational and other specialist content-area tutors required to embed literacy and numeracy into their training.

This qualification, abbreviated to the NCALNE (Voc), is now a minimum compulsory requirement for organisations and tutors delivering Student Achievement Component (SAC) funded training at levels 1 and 2.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) considers the qualification best practice for tutors delivering all foundations focused training.

Quick links

If you need more information, please read on below. However, if you just want the relevant links:

Pathways Awarua

The NCALNE (Voc) qualification is available via Pathways Awarua, New Zealand’s only online literacy and numeracy teaching and learning platform.

The NCALNE (Voc) professional development pathway is a collaboration between Pathways Awarua and Adult Literacy Education & Consulting (ALEC), a leading provider of literacy and numeracy professional development.

The NCALNE (Voc) collaboration between Pathways Awarua and ALEC hosts a growing library of audio, video, and interactive educational material across a series of content and assessment modules covering the following key content areas:

  1. The New Zealand context for literacy and numeracy.
  2. Maori literacy and numeracy.
  3. Mapping literacy and numeracy demands with the Learning Progressions.
  4. Literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessment.
  5. Embedding literacy and numeracy into training.
  6. Assessing learner literacy and numeracy progress.
  7. Evaluating embedded literacy and numeracy training.

From 2015, the Pathways Awarua platform will become the core of the NCALNE (Voc) delivery for all ALEC’s online and blended modes.

How do tutors access the NCALNE (Voc) Pathway?

Currently, access to the NCALNE (Voc) professional development pathway is free for New Zealand educators. To register, complete the two-step registration process online here:

Once registered, tutors have access to all eight NCALNE (Voc) content modules and two of the seven assessment modules.

While access to all of the content and two of the assessments in the NCALNE (Voc) pathway is fully subsidised by the TEC and free to New Zealand users, there are TEC approved course fees for educators who wish to submit evidence for assessment in order to gain the qualification.

Assessments 3 – 7 remain locked until the online Enrol module is completed and course fees are paid.

How much does it cost to gain the NCALNE (Voc) qualification?

The TEC subsidises a portion of the cost of the NCALNE (Voc) qualification through allocation of a limited number of Adult Literacy Educator Grants. These grants are available through ALEC and are a once-only grant for the 12 months  in which the participant is enrolled.

ALEC’s experience is that the requirement for tutors’ employers to cover the per participant fees for their employees increases the accountability between both parties and leads to better outcomes for everyone.

From 2015 there are three main options for gaining the NCALNE (Voc) qualification through Pathways Awarua and ALEC.These are listed below. Each of the options and related fee assumes that the TEC subsidy via the educator study grant is already in place.

Fees for 2015 NCALNE (Voc)

Option 1: Online. Assessment Only

  • $750 + GST per participant (in addition to the Adult Literacy Educator Grant). Participants get assessment of NCALNE (Voc) evidence only, and according to the model in Pathways Awarua. This model does not include feedback or coaching.
  • ALEC’s expectation is that participants complete the training within 12 months of starting. If not, a base fee for Assessment Only of $750 + GST will apply again in the following year. The purpose of this is to incentivise participants to finish in the year that they are enrolled.
  • The advantage of this option is that employers and other groups can manage adult literacy and numeracy professional development internally and work with ALEC for assessment purposes only and according to their own timetables. This could suit some PTEs and ITPs. Because of the way the assessment modules are set up in Pathways Awarua, employers and organisations can wait until their tutors are up to Assessment 3 before they engage ALEC and unlock the rest of the assessment content.

Option 2: Online. With Coaching and Assessment

  • $1500 + GST per participant (in addition to the Adult Literacy Educator Grant).
  • This option includes feedback on assessments as well as email and phone support, online coaching, additional audio, video, and as well as other support resources and materials.
  • ALEC’s expectation is that participants complete the training within 12 months of starting. If not, an Assessment Only base fee of $750 + GST will apply again in the following year. The purpose of this is to incentivise participants to finish in the year that they are enrolled.
  • The advantage of this option is that it may suit tutors who are unable to join a group because of time or distance constraints, or who do not have internal support. All participants will have access to online support, coaching, feedback, and additional resources from ALEC through their NCALNE (Voc) training and assessment journey.

Option 3: Online. With Coaching, Assessment and up to Five Days Face-to-Face Training

  • $2000 + GST per participant (in addition to the Adult Literacy Educator Grant).
  • This option is based on a minimum of 12 participants per group.
  • The format is two x two day intensive workshops followed by a final wrap up session where participants present their embedded project work. The workshops and training are spread out over approximately 4 months.
  • Includes email and phone support, online coaching, additional audio, video, and other support resources and materials, as well as feedback on assessment tasks.
  • ALEC’s Expectation is that participants complete the training within 12 months of starting. If not, the Assessment Only base fee of $750 will apply again in the following year. The purpose of this is to incentivise participants to finish in the year that they are enrolled.
  • The 5 days of facilitated workshop training has been ALEC’s standard model of face-to-face, facilitated training delivered successfully to a wide range of groups since starting this work in 2007. Now we’re able to offer the same model enhanced with new layers of online support including via Pathways Awarua. This option would suit industry groups, private training establishments, and polytechs who are able to put together groups of at least 12 participants.
  • We may require some groups to demonstrate their commitment to this study and the investment represented by the ALEG funding by completing the first one or two assessment tasks prior to starting the face to face training. The purpose of this would be to gauge the level of commitment amongst the participants, to ensure that they are able to produce the right kind of assessment evidence at level 5, and kick start the workshop training in a more effective way.

Get the new NZ Diploma in Adult Literacy & Numeracy (NZDipALN) for FREE…!


Well not totally for free… it’s a competition. Here’s the deal: I want to crowdsource some of the content for our new NZDipALN. This is a professional qualification for adult educators particularly working in trades or vocational training.

The emphasis is on strengthening adult literacy and numeracy in Aotearoa New Zealand, but I think much of this is generalisable to other international contexts as well.

What I want:

  • People who are willing to be early adopters for this new qualification.

Here’s what you get:

  • Zero fees for completing Module 1 in the NZDipALN which is to Develop a Personal Approach to Strengthening Adult Literacy and Numeracy. This involves assessment against one level 6 unit standard worth 5 credits. Note: This costs us money.

What you have to do:

  • Tell us you want to join our team of Diploma Guinea Pigs by emailing
  • Work like crazy to be one of the first five people to complete the assessment task as quickly as possible over the next month with a very fuzzy loosely defined set of boundaries and very limited study resources.

Here’s why:

  • We want the course development to be informed by real tutors doing real work. We are already constrained by the unit standards that we have to work with. But as much as possible we want to support the work of embedding and strengthening literacy and numeracy in trades and vocational training.

Questions and answers

  • Will I get paid? No, you will not get paid.
  • Will I get the unit standard? Yes if you are one of the first five people to complete inside the timeframe.
  • Will it count towards the Diploma? Yes.
  • Do I have to be an educator? Well yes… we’re happy to have a creative interpretation here, but yes.
  • Do I have to work in trades? No. But there should be some practical, preferably work-focused aspect to your training. Of course, if you do work in trades that’s even better. We want practical people doing this work.
  • Are you going to use my work in your course? Yes, that’s the whole point. We want to use your answer as a model, so it better be good.
  • What kind of support can you offer? Phone, email, online.
  • Will I get some kind of recognition? Yes, you will be thanked personally by me and if you want, we’ll attribute your work to you personally in the online module.
  • Will I be the envy of all my colleagues? Yes.
  • Will I develop 6 pack abs, lose weight, sleep more, be happier, earn more money, and have better sex. There are no guarantees, but yes we think so.


Free Literacy and Numeracy Professional Development… Free NCALNE (Voc)


  • What if you could get the same training on embedded literacy and numeracy that our paid-up NCALNE (Voc) candidates get… but for free?
  • What if you could know everything that our graduates know… for free?
  • What if you could access all of the same lectures, slides, handouts, and resources that our students get… for free?

I’m not talking about getting the credentials for free, mind you… Just the underpinning knowledge base that supports this level 5 National Certificate.

Then, if you wanted to, that would then allow you to put together your own teaching portfolio that any accredited NCALNE provider could assess. You could do it at your own pace. And our assessment would be for a fee of course.

That was fee not free… Hopefully, you’d come to us. But you wouldn’t necessarily need to. And along the way we might try and sell you a few of tools you need for your teaching toolbox. No pressure though.

And then, what if you could rent the professional development you needed to gain the next tier qualification – the level 6 Diploma in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (NDipALNE). You could take as long as you wanted, or get it done as fast as you wanted. All you’d have to do is click subscribe.

Just thinking out loud here… Let me know what you think in the comments.